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Film

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham Reconnect for Uber-Violent 'Wrath of Man'

Posted By on Sat, May 29, 2021 at 7:01 AM

Jason Statham in Wrath of Man - MGM
  • MGM
  • Jason Statham in Wrath of Man
It has been 23 years since writer-director Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham first combined forces for the wonderfully twisty take on tough-guy bravado, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Two years later they recaptured lightning in a bottle with Snatch.

A lot has changed in the two decades since.

Ritchie married Madonna and found the shine from his meteoric rise to A-list auteur slowly dull and diminish with a string of redundant wannabe-gangster films, the overwrought and exhausting Sherlock Holmes franchise and head-scratching detours like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and Aladdin.

Statham molded himself into a bruising action star capable of laying waste to a horde of bad guys or even a giant prehistoric shark.

Now that they’re finally reteamed for Wrath of Man, a remake of a 2004 French thriller, it’s fair to say there’s a degree of expectation that they might once again deliver cinematic gold.

The problem, though, is that action movies, specifically crime-centric thrillers, also have changed significantly since the late 1990s, and Wrath of Man, no matter how hard Ritchie and Statham try, feels like a movie you’ve seen countless times before, no matter how determinedly violent the action becomes.

At its heart, Wrath of Man is a revenge thriller centered around H (Statham), a new hire at a Los Angeles armored car company, at a time when a group of thugs with military training have just pulled off a messy heist that resulted in the deaths of two guards and an innocent teen-aged boy.

Ritchie bounces back and forth in time to tell his tale, using repetition to peel away every possible angle of the opening heist to slowly show viewers exactly what happened, and why. But this gimmick grows tiresome, especially after the third or fourth time you see words appear on screen saying, ‘Five months ago,’ ‘Three days ago,’ etc.

There’s also very little mystery to keep viewers guessing. We know early on who is responsible and who will eventually pay a price in blood, which means the bulk of the film’s bloated 118-minute runtime is basically consumed with moving each character’s chess piece into position for the blistering, bullet-ridden finale.

As a rule, revenge thrillers, at least the best that the genre has to offer, chug along a twin track designed to hook viewers with bombastic set pieces and enjoin them to the protagonist or proceedings with some sort of emotional connection or investment.

There’s little to no emotion on display here, in part, because Statham says very little at all throughout the film. Yeah, you know he’s pissed off because he never loses his trademark Statham scowl, but good luck feeling any sort of sympathy for his loss or empathy toward his plight.

John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films that often get overlooked and interviews with cult cinema favorites like George A. Romero, Bruce Campbell and Dee Wallace. Contact him at Blood Violence and Babes.com, on Facebook @BloodViolenceBabes or on Twitter @BVB_reviews.

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Thursday, May 27, 2021

Quiet Place Part II is a Solid Ass Sequel

Posted By on Thu, May 27, 2021 at 9:55 AM

Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds and Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place Part II - PARAMOUNT PICTURES
  • Paramount Pictures
  • Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds and Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place Part II

Rakish heartthrob Cillian Murphy is in many ways an anti-John Krasinski. In physical size, off-screen persona, and on-screen energy, the two are practically opposites. One is Irish, lean, private to the point of reclusivity and morally ambiguous. The other is American, brawny, sentimental to the point of mawkishness and heroic by personal preference. One of them is a very good actor, and it's not John Krasinksi.

The Peaky Blinders star is bearded and emotionally frayed as the newest member of the ensemble cast in A Quiet Place Part II, which opens Friday nationwide. His presence elevates what is already an entertaining, high-voltage action-thriller script that builds on the success of the 2018 original.

In defiance of the standard Hollywood playbook, Part II is a relatively modest expansion of the world previously introduced. The bad guys are still alien monsters who are hypersensitive to sound. There is no alien mothership now hovering, no outer-space chases now afoot, and no U.S. military now doing battle on the streets of a major American city. The sequel still takes place in the woods and small towns of upstate New York, and the gimmick – and the chief source of the film’s thrills – remains the same: everyone has to stay silent to avoid detection and death at the monsters' claws.

Directed once again by Krasinski, Part II features Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) and her three children searching for safety after the violent barnyard encounter with which the first film concluded. The hearing-impaired eldest daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), has devised a way to fight back against the monsters and might have a way to broaden the scope of her methods. But in order to be sure, she has to test out her theory a two-day hike away. A new acquaintance, Emmett (Murphy) is enlisted to track her down. Meantime, Evelyn and her injured son Marcus (Noah Jupe) and a new baby must find ways to survive in an abandoned industrial facility. The genius of the script is that every humdrum activity is imbued with life-and-death stakes when it must be completed in silence.   

It’s evident that a Part III is on the horizon, and this second installment deftly bridges the gap between opener and closer. The action is creatively staged to maximize both visual and aural thrills and the cast thrives via facial expression in the relative absence of dialogue. An opening prologue that revisits the day the aliens arrive will likely be the most heart-pounding action of the year until F9 drops in a few weeks. 

This is what a solid sequel looks like.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Cleveland Cinemas' Apollo Theatre in Oberlin to Open June 4

Posted By on Tue, May 25, 2021 at 9:43 AM

Cleveland Cinemas' Apollo Theatre - WIKIPEDIA
  • Wikipedia
  • Cleveland Cinemas' Apollo Theatre
The Apollo Theatre in Oberlin, one of Cleveland Cinemas' four remaining locations in Northeast Ohio, will officially reopen on June 4 after a closure of more than a year due to the pandemic.

As with larger chains, the Apollo will abide by industry safety protocols and will require patrons to wear masks when not consuming refreshments. In a press release announcing the reopening, Cleveland Cinemas said the capacity in the theatre's main auditorium and smaller screening room have been reduced by half to accommodate physical distancing.

The big opening on June 4 will be Disney's Cruella, but the remainder of the month will showcase hotly anticipated releases as well: The adaptation of the Tony-winning Broadway musical In the Heights on June 11, Peter Rabbit on June 18, and F9, undoubtedly the Fast and the Furious franchise's fastest and most furious installment yet, on June 25. 

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Monday, May 24, 2021

John Krasinski Surprised Fans at Saturday Night's Preview Screenings of 'A Quiet Place 2' at Valley View and Pinecrest

Posted By on Mon, May 24, 2021 at 9:50 AM

Clevelanders who scooped advance preview tickets to see A Quiet Place 2 at Cinemark at Valley View or Silverspot at Pinecrest Saturday night not only got to see the highly anticipated action sequel that had sat on the shelf through the pandemic ahead of its official May 28th opening but were welcomed by Jim Halpert himself.

John Krasinski, who co-wrote, directed and starred in the first installment with wife Emily Blunt and who wrote and directed the sequel, has been on a PR tear promoting the follow-up. And that included a stop in Cleveland.

Introduced by Josh and Maria Cribbs at the Pinecrest showing and Mike Wendt of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission at Valley View, Krasinski talked to the audiences, signed autographs and posed for pictures. A video recap from Krasinski's Twitter below for everyone who missed out.


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Monday, May 17, 2021

All Cops Are Bad? 'Spiral' Expands the 'Saw' Universe While Showing its Limits

Posted By on Mon, May 17, 2021 at 9:44 AM

Chris Rock in Spiral: From the Book of Saw - LIONSGATE
  • Lionsgate
  • Chris Rock in Spiral: From the Book of Saw

Fans of the torture-porn horror franchise Saw will no doubt be confused to hear that Spiral, the latest installment, has opened in theaters. Isn’t it May? Each of the eight prior Saw films debuted on the Friday before Halloween, and from 2004-2010, they arrived like clockwork each year, almost ritualistically, constructing with each new episode the flimsy mythology of Jigsaw, the franchise’s twisted serial killer.

The plots of these autumn gorefests became increasingly incidental to the “games” at their heart, gruesome traps that Jigsaw and his apprentices compelled their victims to play on pain of death. Jigsaw always interpreted these as teaching moments. If, and only if, you had the chutzpah to gouge out your own eye, for example, to retrieve a key that had been surgically stashed there, and then use that key to unlock a timed explosive device strapped to your head, could you walk away with a renewed appreciation for life. Jigsaw purported to hate murder throughout the early films. He saw himself (and was portrayed!) as more of a philosopher, a born-again preacher animated by his own brush with death. He just wanted to get folks to live their lives to the fullest and so forth.

A total crock, naturally.

But to reiterate: The whole point of the films – the chief draw for both fans and tourists – were the “games,” generally precipitated by a cassette tape recording or TV instructional video, narrated by a red-eyed clown laying out the rules of play. The low-rent ensemble casts and campy scripts were not bugs but features, guaranteeing that the focus remained on the parade of outlandish deaths.

Spiral, which purports to be “from the book of Saw,” is the franchise’s second spinoff, and it retains key elements and personnel from earlier efforts. It’s directed by Darren Lee Bousman, who directed Saws II, III and IV; and written by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger, who wrote Jigsaw, the first spinoff in 2017. But there are key differences: A-lister appeal, for one. Chris Rock stars. He’s evidently a big fan of the franchise, and he produced the film as a personal opportunity to ‘get into horror’ and punched up the script with some stand-up material. Samuel L. Jackson and Max Minghella play supporting roles and make Spiral the most star-studded Saw film since the debut, which starred Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Princess Bride’s Cary Elwes, and a couple of dudes who would soon be more recognizable for their roles on LOST, quickly becoming a smash hit on ABC.

In Spiral, a Jigsaw copycat is wreaking havoc on the police department. As in all prior films, the locale is unnamed. Though filmed in Toronto, the cops are housed in the "South Metropolitan" police station. (Lol at modifying the generic “Metropolitan” with the more specific “South.”) Lead detective Zeke Banks, (Rock), must track down the killer as more and more of his colleagues are offed.

But Banks is a pariah on the force. His father (Jackson) had been a decorated police chief, but Banks ratted out his partner years ago and has been “looking over his shoulder” ever since. Banks might even agree with the copycat killer in theory – the police are corrupt, and desperately in need of cleansing – but he’s disgusted by the methods. He’s an outcast on the force, sure, but he’s still a cop. And some of the victims are his friends. Not every apple is a bad apple, right?

Spiral, incidentally, is the first Saw film that feels like it was filmed in an actual city, not exclusively the abandoned warehouses, derelict properties, and poop-spattered bathrooms where Jigsaw built his traps. Several scenes even transpire during daylight hours. Banks begrudgingly takes on a rookie partner (Minghella) early in the film, and together, they try to piece together clues from the killer as they arrive. It’s a standard police procedural, formula-wise.

Of the several cop “traps,” only three, including a grisly opening scene, play out in real-time. Others are mercifully shown in bits and pieces via flashback. As in previous films, the traps often invite some head scratching on mechanical and logistical fronts. (Earlier films tried to explain away the complexities by retroactively inventing a posse of Jigsaw disciples, who helped ensnare victims and set up the elaborate games.) Here, the killer’s schedule, budget and technical know-how are all better left unscrutinized.

The more difficult questions to ignore are about the premise: the killing of cops. The film was conceived, written, and filmed long before the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing summer of protests – it was originally scheduled to be released in May of last year – but a serial killer taking down a local police force in retaliation for a specific strain of misconduct (killing Black people without accountability) might have been a ballsy conceit, alive with real-world tension. There was an attempt at social resonance back in Saw VI, when the main victim was a medical insurance executive whose company had systematically denied coverage to sick clients. Was watching him mutilate himself and kill his colleagues in horrific ways meant to be catharsis during a time, (the fraught early years of Obamacare), when the evils of the insurance industry were being exposed?

Here, the corruption and abuse of which the cops are guilty couldn’t be more old-school if they tried: lying on the stand, planting evidence, roughing up witnesses. It might as well be the 1970s. And there’s no indication that Banks himself, though portrayed as a renegade, is much better than the rest of them. He reported his former partner to internal affairs for an egregious incident, but he’s still pleased as punch to beat a local drug dealer silly when trying to get information in the copycat case. Banks and his father are of course Black men, but race – and indeed, race in the context of systemic police misconduct — is off-limits.

That’s probably for the best. The prospect of “woke Saw” discourse on social media is even more terrifying than death at Jigsaw’s hands. But the film’s failure to depict a credible contemporary police department plagued by credible contemporary problems reflects the franchise’s inability to dream up anything beyond cardboard cutouts of characters and motivations. Saw is still just about blood and guts. And those are origins that maybe need not be transcended.

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Friday, April 23, 2021

Regal Reopens Its Northeast Ohio Movie Theaters Next Month

Posted By on Fri, Apr 23, 2021 at 9:04 AM

Regal joins Cinemark, AMC and Cleveland Cinemas in welcoming back moviegoers - JJBERS/FLICKRCC
  • JJBers/FlickrCC
  • Regal joins Cinemark, AMC and Cleveland Cinemas in welcoming back moviegoers

After shuttering its theaters last fall as Covid spikes surged around the country, Regal is throwing the doors open on its Ohio theaters next month.

Cinemark, AMC and two Cleveland Cinemas locations have already reopened.

Regal's Westlake and Willoughby locations will reopen May 7, following by Hudson and Medina on May 14. Akron area theaters will reopen May 21, the last among all Regal properties in Ohio.

"We have long-awaited this moment when we can welcome audiences back to our Regal theatres and restore our essential role within the communities we serve," Mooky Greidinger, chief executive officer of Regal's parent company Cineworld, said in a statement. "With the health and safety of our customers, staff, and communities as our top priority, we continue to take all the necessary precautions and abide by our CinemaSafe guidelines to confidently provide a safe and comfortable experience."

Masks will be mandatory unless eating or drinking and capacity will be reduced to ensure proper distancing.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Greater Cleveland Aquarium To Host Virtual World Premiere of Documentary Film About Coral Reef Restoration

Posted By on Tue, Apr 13, 2021 at 4:34 PM

The documentary '100 Yards of Hope' will have its world premiere during NFL Draft Week. - COURTESY OF FORCE BLUE
  • Courtesy of FORCE BLUE
  • The documentary '100 Yards of Hope' will have its world premiere during NFL Draft Week.
The world premiere of 100 Yards of Hope, a documentary about the unique  restoration of a football field-sized coral reef, will make its world premiere virtually at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 27, at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium during NFL Draft Week.

The film features FORCE BLUE, a team of retired Special Operations military divers dedicated to saving America’s only barrier coral reef.

Continue reading »

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